September 18, 2007

Sept. 18, 2007

Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of Lacrosse magazine in September 2007. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in the "Classroom," e-mail section editor Matt DaSilva at mdasilva@uslacrosse.org.


by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

There's nothing worse than dry chops during an overture.

Emily Geary knows this, both as a trumpet player and lacrosse goalie. A bad warm-up can set the tone for a forgettable performance.

For Geary and fellow U.S. Under-19 women's national team goalie Katie Janian, a lot goes on between the time they step off the team bus and a game's opening whistle. From a hermetic exercise in visualization to short-stick mechanics to rapid fire immediately before the draw, what happens in the 45 minutes prior to a game can directly determine its outcome.

We asked Geary and Janian for recommendations on how to fine-tune a goalie's pregame warm-up. So follow their lead here.

After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

See the Save

For any field player, visualization techniques can help in his or her game-day preparation. Geary stretches by herself before the coaches warm her up with shots and then again when the officials call for the line-up.

"I just kind of stand there and think about the save," Geary said. "I do a lot of visual thinking. See yourself making the save, especially on the bus ride to a game or when you're walking to the field."

Janian, on the other hand, prefers to get into it with her teammates on the field, so she crams her meditation in beforehand.

"It's different for everyone," Janian said. "I just have a different mode. I really get myself in the mood to play lacrosse. Even before we get out near a field, I'm either listening to music or thinking to myself, just visualizing."

Don't Alienate Yourself

Every goalie can use some "me time," but it is important to also participate in pregame drills that may not have a direct correlation to goalkeeping -- such as line drills or 3-on-2s.

"Once we get warming up," Janian said, "I like to bond with my team. It makes the whole energy a lot more positive."

Especially since hard boundaries were implemented in the women's game in 2006, it is important that a goalie is comfortable with the way her stick is throwing and catching before a game. You don't want to get caught out of position and leave an open cage on a misplayed pass near the end line.

Fiddle with your pocket and shooting strings to minimize the opportunity for error.

Be Limber

Plyometrics is a type of exercise that uses explosive movements (think Rocky clapping between push-ups) to develop muscular power. Just like a boxer's punch, a goalie's step-and-punch movement should be forceful.

"Plyos" can also help develop your stretch reflex before a game.

If clap push-ups are not your thing, however, make sure your warm-up is dynamic enough to get your leg muscles loose.

"I really like to get my legs moving," Janian said, "because it's the most important thing -- stepping to the ball."

Geary prefers more cardiovascular activity before a game.

"It's really important to stretch and be loose. It's not so much the miles and the laps. Just doing a lap or two to get warm, but then doing a few quick sprints before the game helps make sure during warm-ups that you get out of the cage a few times."

Choose Warm-up Shots Wisely

Preferences become a bit more goalie-specific as it pertains to shot selection during warm-ups. Find what works for you, and communicate that to the shooter - or shooters, if you prefer a more diverse range of shots and angles.

Here's a good foundation for warm-up shots: progress from high to low, and then from the 8-meter to in tight. Then mix it up your target areas, zeroing in on the ball's motion.

Exaggerate, if you need to.

"I like to do the drill where you have two people warming you up and passing at the top of the arc," Janian said. "That way, you just get your body working and your eyes working."

Every field has its intricacies, and every crease its divots, so get to know the surface by seeing a good dose of bounce shots.

"I like them to start out further -- especially for the bounce shots -- and then as the shots continue on towards the end, high and low, they get both harder and closer," Geary said.

Grab a Shorty

U.S. U-19 coaches Wendy Kridel and, particularly, former Team USA goalie Jess Wilk have Geary and Janian hooked on one interesting variance to their normal high school pregame routines -- using a men's short stick for warm-ups.

It's a tactic, they contend, which leads to keener hand-eye coordination. You have to see the ball into a smaller pocket. (Other players will drop their stick altogether, fielding shots just with their gloves.)

"On the U.S. team, we like to warm up with a little stick, just because it gets us moving quicker and we really have to focus on getting our stick to the ball," Janian said. "It's a lot more helpful just to get your legs moving and your hands and eyes working together."

See Enough Shots, but Not Too Many

You may have seen teams finish their warm-ups by peppering their goalie in rapid fire. Whether you utilize this as a goalie depends on your frame of mind.

Geary likes it.

"A lot of shots, and you can just get really quick and consecutive. I need to break a sweat before I start playing a game. Otherwise you just stand back there, and you get really cold and tight," Geary said. "[Rapid fire] is really good for that -- it gets you really warm really quickly."

However, Janian warned, the rapid-fire drill is not suitable for those whose confidence is easily shaken.

"We save those for practice, not for pregame," she said. "Because a lot of the shooting drills, they can be kind of demoralizing if you're taking a lot of shots. And right before a game, that's not really beneficial. You don't want to get down on yourself."

So if you're going to let `em fly, expect a few to find the back of the net, and allow the momentum of a few spectacular saves to carry you into the start of the game.

Be Flexible

Goalies are a particular breed, creatures of habit. But they must be prepared to alter their pregame routine as new situations (such as a late arrival or inclement weather) arise.

Said Janian: "I normally hold to a pretty strict routine, but it's important to be flexible, because you never know if you're going to have time to actually go through everything you want to get done."

So get your chops in when you can, but be confident enough to let your natural ability take over come game time.

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